Why do we care about celebrity deaths? It is not, to coin a phrase, logical. Usually we have never, and likely would not have ever, met the dead. Our only connection to them is their work, which generally still exists. The celebrity, on the other hand, is like a fictional character–a person about whom we learn things, or think we do, and yet who never has any reality within the tiny circles of our lives. Perhaps that is why we mourn them the way we do: publically, loudly, and briefly. It is a kind of performance–not at all in the sense of being insincere, but in the sense that we wish to express and share with a community who likewise appreciated the celebrity, as opposed to the mourning of a real loved one, which is generally private, quiet, and forever, albeit in gradually dwindling degree.
And yet I find myself curiously hard hit by the death of Nimoy, and I do not seem to be alone in this. For that, I can only turn to the degree to which he, or more accurately his most famous character, impacted me when I was very young.
It is difficult to express how much he meant to me as a child. For a troubled boy growing up in an environment of constant emotional conflict, who was shut out by his peers and labeled an outsider, the idea of making one’s outsider status a point of pride, of embracing detachment and distance as a strategy for dealing with an emotional whirlwind, was tremendously important for me.
As I grew older, I recognized that this approach has serious flaws, which have taken much of my life to unlearn, but nonetheless it is how I survived my childhood, and I learned it from Spock. I would likely not be here today without Mr. Nimoy’s compelling, fascinating, and—yes—human performance. He was one of the greats, and the world is poorer without him in it.
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